Three players from Taiwan will be battling it out in the first round of the singles competitions at the Australian Open tomorrow.
At least one Taiwanese is guaranteed a place in the second round of the women’s tournament after Hsieh Su-wei and Chan Yung-jan were drawn to meet each other in the first round.
Hsieh will have fond memories of Melbourne following her remarkable run to the fourth round last year. Having won three matches in qualifying to reach the main draw, she then beat No. 19 seed Sybille Bammer on her way to the best-ever performance by a Taiwanese player at a Grand Slam singles event.
The 23-year-old right-hander will also be buoyed by her victory in the final of the Sydney International women’s doubles on Friday when she teamed up with China’s Peng Shuai to breeze past France’s Nathalie Dechy and Australia’s Casey Dellacqua 6-0, 6-1. Hsieh and Peng’s triumph was all the more impressive as they did not drop a set during the tournament.
Chan’s build-up to the year’s first Grand Slam has been less impressive, losing to Elena Dementieva in straight sets in Auckland earlier this month and failing to make the main draw in Sydney last week after losing to world No. 125 Stephanie Dubois of Canada in qualifying.
In Chan’s favor going into her clash with Hsieh is her higher ranking (Chan is ranked 75, Hsieh 82) and her victory over her compatriot in their last meeting. The 19-year-old beat Hsieh 5-7, 7-6, 6-0 in Kaohsiung in 2006. On the only other occasion the two have met at a WTA event, Hsieh took the honors, winning 6-1, 6-2 in qualifying for the Australian Open earlier the same year.
Chan has yet to progress past the first round in Melbourne, having fallen at the first hurdle in 2007 and last year.
Dominika Cibulkova is likely to be waiting for Chan or Hsieh in round two. The Slovak world No. 19 is fresh from her Hopman Cup triumph where she teamed up with Dominik Hrbaty to take the mixed team title after beating Marat Safin and Dinara Safina of Russia in the final.
In the men’s singles, Taiwanese No. 1 Lu Yen-hsun will face world No. 89 Thomaz Bellucci of Brazil. The two have yet to meet in an ATP event, but Lu has the edge in the rankings, currently placed No. 61.
Lu has had mixed fortunes in his preparations for Melbourne, losing two singles matches in the Hopman Cup at the beginning of the year, before forfeiting another because of injury.
However, he beat world No. 57 Steve Darcis in Auckland last week and took a set off top 20 player Nicolas Almagro before the Spaniard recovered to win in three sets.
Lu’s record in Melbourne is mediocre, having reached the second round only once in four attempts, but he is capable of rising to the big occasion, as evidenced by his defeat of world No. 4 Andy Murray at the Beijing Olympics last year.
Should Lu down Bellucci he faces the daunting prospect of a likely second-round clash with David Nalbandian of Argentina. The South American, ranked No. 11 in the world, was a semi-finalist in Melbourne in 2006 and reached the final at Wimbledon four years earlier.